Sky makes $45M strategic investment in Asia-based Netflix rival iFlix

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UK broadcaster Sky is putting focus on emerging markets and online streaming after it made a $45 million investment in iFlix, a one-year-old company that rivals Netflix in Southeast Asia.

Sky said that the deal is strategic and it will see the two parties “work together to identify areas of future collaboration.” It seems likely, then, that iFlix — which currently operates in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines and charges upwards of around $3 per month — will gain content from Sky’s programming library over time.

“iflix has quickly established itself as Southeast Asia’s most exciting and fastest-growing streaming TV service. There are lots of opportunities for Sky and iflix to work together and share expertise as both companies continue to expand,” Andrew Griffith, Sky’s Group CFO, said in a statement.

iFlix confirmed to TechCrunch that it also took an undisclosed sum from Indonesia-based TV and content company Emtek Group, which invested alongside Sky via its subsidiary Surya Citra Media. That’s a clear hint that Indonesia is in iFlix’s expansion plans.

Beyond its famed satellite TV services, Sky also runs NOW TV, Sky Online and Sky Go on the web and mobile. iFlix is a joint venture between Catcha Group — a Malaysia-based organization that runs a plethora of online businesses — and U.S.-based investment firm Evolution Media Capital. The company raised $30 million in funding from Catcha, PLDT, a telecom conglomerate in the Philippines, and Singapore-based VC firm Jungle Ventures to expand in Southeast Asia but it also harbors larger ambitious.

Back in December, we reported that iFlix was talking to investors about raising up to $150 million to grow the service across Asia, and expand into Africa, Latin America and other emerging markets. Sky is certainly a strong name to add to its investor and partner list to help that global plan come to fruition. (Film giant MGM is another of iFlix’s strategic investors.)

Netflix, of course, beat its rivals — and surprised the industry — when it went global with an expansion into 130 new countries in January. It may be the best known name in the industry, but most of its popular content is restricted and unavailable in many of its new launch countries. That leaves the door open for iFlix and other regional players like HOOQ, a joint venture in Southeast Asia between operator Singtel, Sony and Warner, to offer more dedicated programming. Mobile-first media consumption models, higher pricing and complications around payments may also be areas where Netflix initially struggles to compete with local rivals, too.

Updated with confirmation of investment from Surya Citra Media